Paved path for pedestrians, cyclists breaks ground on Watertown-Cambridge Greenway

Officials break ground on the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway project on Dec. 6, 2018, at Fresh Pond. (Photo courtesy of City of Cambridge)

By Daniel Anthony Dellechiaie
BU News Service

CAMBRIDGE – Soon cyclists and pedestrians will be able to travel down a smooth, paved path through Fresh Pond into Watertown.

In December, state and local officials broke ground on the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway, a 1.25-mile paved path running along an old railroad bed connecting the Charles River Path System, the Minuteman Bikeway, the Alewife Greenway, and the Mystic River Reservation.

Part of the Greenway will be parallel to the existing dirt path in the woods next to Fresh Pond and the rest continues along the bed through Watertown, behind the Mount Auburn Cemetery, finally connecting to the Watertown Greenway.

In 2013, Cambridge and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation each bought part of the unused railroad track – which once carried trains laden with ice cut from Fresh Pond – for approximately $1.5 million, according to Bill Deignan, Cambridge transportation program manager.

“The construction costs bid came in at about $3.5 million,” added Deignan in an email interview.

The goal is a 12-foot-wide path with two-foot shoulders on each side. The size makes it possible for “a huge variety of people both in the neighborhood as well as regionally to use this path for transportation, for recreation, to go for a walk with your dog, or to reach Fresh Pond,” Deignan said.

Cleanup of the track

Before the project began, the railroad track was not as pretty as the rest of the Fresh Pond area.

“It was a right-of-way full of trash and years and years of debris dumped by the railroad and was certainly not a healthy green space,” said Deignan.

The current main path at Fresh Pond is open for walkers, dog walkers and bikers. Some think the new bike path will make the current path less crowded.

And although it will connect most of the major bike paths and greenways in the area, others are not so sure about the change.

“I like walking on dirt. I don’t like walking on the hard top. I like things being natural. It was natural when I started coming here. I like it the way it was,” said David Ferrante, 65, while walking his dogs on the path Dec. 1. Ferrante has been going to Fresh Pond for 60 years.

Although Ferrante is not a fan of the new path, he does admit that the path may allow people to avoid knocking into each other.

“I had shoulder surgery. A biker ran into me. Bam. The bike path would be nice to divert that,” he said.

“There are always people who for one reason or another don’t like change and change is very difficult for a lot of people, but once they actually see it built and get a chance to use it and their family and friends use it, they turn around,” said Deignan.

Another walker said she sees the future path as inspirational.

“It makes me want to bike,” said Margot Soule on a recent sunny afternoon.

The Watertown portion of the path will have lighting for commuters, but Cambridge has not yet determined whether it will have lighting alongside its section of the path.

“But that’s a future element of the project that’s not included in the construction right now,” said Deignan.

The construction is estimated to be done in June 2020.

This article was also featured in the Cambridge Chronicle.

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